Can the Nintendo Switch Play 3DS Games?

If you’re a Nintendo enthusiast, the idea of playing your cherished 3DS games on the versatile Nintendo Switch might sound like a dream come true. But can it be done? In this article, we’ll explore the compatibility of Nintendo Switch with 3DS games and the various methods to make it happen.

Understanding Nintendo’s Gaming Ecosystem

Before we dive into the compatibility of 3DS games on the Nintendo Switch, it’s crucial to understand Nintendo’s gaming ecosystem:

  • Nintendo 3DS: Released in 2011, the 3DS is a handheld gaming console that’s known for its dual-screen design and an extensive library of unique games. It’s a predecessor to the Nintendo Switch.
  • Nintendo Switch: Launched in 2017, the Nintendo Switch is a versatile gaming console that can be used both as a handheld and a traditional console. It has quickly become a fan favorite due to its unique design and game library.

Can the Nintendo Switch Play 3DS Games?

The short answer is no, the Nintendo Switch cannot play 3DS game cartridges or run them natively. The two systems use different architectures and game formats, making direct compatibility impossible. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your 3DS titles in some form on your Nintendo Switch.

Methods to Play 3DS Games on Nintendo Switch

While the Nintendo Switch cannot play physical 3DS game cartridges, here are some alternative methods to enjoy your favorite 3DS titles on the Switch:

1. Virtual Console or Emulation

Nintendo has a history of offering a “Virtual Console” on their consoles, which allows players to purchase and download classic games from previous systems. While the 3DS had its own Virtual Console for playing Game Boy, NES, and SNES titles, the Nintendo Switch currently has a limited selection of classic games. We will cover more in detail in the Exploring Nintendo’s Virtual Console section below.

2. 3DS Game Ports

In some cases, Nintendo has re-released popular 3DS titles with enhancements for the Nintendo Switch. While not all 3DS games have been ported, a few have made their way to the Switch, offering improved graphics and gameplay.

3. Cloud Gaming Services

Nintendo is exploring cloud gaming as an option to make 3DS games available on the Switch. While this technology is still evolving, it has the potential to bring 3DS titles to the Nintendo Switch via streaming.

4. Backward Compatibility (Limited)

The Nintendo Switch is not backward compatible with physical 3DS game cartridges, but some limited backward compatibility exists through the Nintendo eShop. For instance, the Nintendo eShop on the 3DS allows you to purchase and download some classic 3DS games that are also available on the Nintendo Switch.

Exploring Nintendo’s Virtual Console

Nintendo’s Virtual Console service is a portal to gaming nostalgia, offering classic games from various Nintendo consoles for download and play on the Nintendo Switch. While it doesn’t include 3DS games at the moment, it’s a valuable resource for fans of retro gaming.

What is the Virtual Console?

Nintendo’s Virtual Console is a collection of classic games from the company’s extensive library. It allows gamers to experience beloved titles from older Nintendo systems on newer hardware. While the Nintendo Switch Virtual Console doesn’t currently include 3DS games, it does cover a range of other platforms, including:

  • NES (Nintendo Entertainment System): This iconic console brought us games like “Super Mario Bros.” and “The Legend of Zelda.”
  • SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System): Home to classics like “Super Mario World” and “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.”
  • Nintendo 64: Known for games such as “Super Mario 64” and “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.”
  • Sega Genesis: While not a Nintendo system, the Virtual Console also includes a selection of Sega Genesis titles.

Accessing the Virtual Console

To access and enjoy the Virtual Console on your Nintendo Switch, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the eShop: Access the Nintendo eShop from your Nintendo Switch’s home screen.
  2. Browse Virtual Console Games: Use the eShop’s search and browse features to find Virtual Console games.
  3. Purchase and Download: Select the game you want to purchase, and download it to your Nintendo Switch.
  4. Play and Enjoy: Once the game is downloaded, launch it and start playing. You can customize controls and even create save points for a more convenient gaming experience.

Popular Virtual Console Games

While the Virtual Console doesn’t currently include 3DS games, it offers a rich selection of classic titles to enjoy. Some popular Virtual Console games you can find on the Nintendo Switch include:

  • Super Mario 64: The game that redefined 3D platformers and introduced us to Mario’s adventures in three dimensions.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: A classic action-adventure that remains a favorite among Zelda fans.
  • Super Metroid: A defining title in the Metroid series, known for its exploration and atmosphere.
  • Super Mario World: The iconic side-scrolling adventure featuring Mario and Yoshi.
  • Earthbound: A beloved RPG that tells the tale of a young boy named Ness and his quest to save the world from an alien invasion.

The Nintendo Switch Virtual Console doesn’t currently cover 3DS games, but it offers an array of timeless classics from other Nintendo consoles. Enjoy these retro experiences while we keep an eye on future developments and the potential expansion of the Virtual Console library.


Although the Nintendo Switch cannot directly play physical 3DS game cartridges, there are alternative methods to enjoy your favorite 3DS titles on the Switch. Keep an eye on Nintendo’s official announcements and the evolving landscape of cloud gaming services for potential future solutions. In the meantime, explore the library of games designed specifically for the Nintendo Switch and relish the unique experiences it offers.

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